100th Infantry Battalion, B Company
Military Enlistment and Draft
In 1939, Ray returns to Hawaii. Drafted in 1940, he is assigned to the 298th Regiment, Hawaii National Guard, E Company.
At Schofield Barracks, military-issue uniforms are oversize for his 110-pound frame. Cadres from the mainland U.S., unfamiliar with Japanese names, call him "Noska."
He doesn't feel trusted because he is Japanese.
I [returned to Hawaii] the latter part of 1939.
I got a notice to be drafted. So I went in the army, first draft, in 1940. I was glad that I went there because no jobs. The only job I had was a recreation director. National Guard
I went to [join the National Guard] October, see. I got drafted in December. I went to National Guard, they said, "I'm sorry, they all went already. You know, they came federal. And they're all in Schofield [Barracks], so it's too late to join us." Then the first thing I know, a few months later, I got a draft letter. So it was all right, yeah.
You know, I still don't know what [the draft letter is] for. My parents, nobody, came to see me off, or say goodbye. I don't call them, nothing. I just get the letter by Farrington High School, we got on the bus, they take us to national guard armory - which is now the capitol - and then we take a physical there, and they take us on a bus, and then go straight to Schofield. Not even say telephone my parents or anything. We just go straight to Schofield.
And then they gave us all kinds of uniform. And the uniform, all mostly - I was first draft, now - oversized. I guess the Americans, they figured we are about their size. But some of them [Hawaii draftees] only about, I think, five feet. Five feet short. So they're extra small. The shoes big like this. Nothing fits. But slowly, they got used to it.
Even when we went to Schofield to get trained, most of the cadres that teach us, most were from the Mainland. . .First time they see so many Japanese. That's why, when they pronounce the name, they get a hard time. Like, the guy name Takushi, Yasuhide Takushi, "Yasu-hide Take-a-shit." You know, Takushi, they cannot pronounce it. All the names they pronounce that was Japanese, they couldn't pronounce it right. Like me, they call me "Noska," like that. Somehow, they cannot read. Because they're not living here, they only associated with the haoles, yeah. So we had difficulties, the first part.
You know, I hate to say this, but all the people that work from Pearl Harbor and Hickam Field like that, mostly Korean and Chinese. So when I got drafted, I look at the - almost, I would say, two-thirds were Japanese. And some of the boys hardly can speak English. And they were drafted. That's why, when you look back, you say, "How the hell?" But the draft board, they got to fill their quota. So all the guys that's in the navy yard, they get deferred because they're working for the defense plant. So when I look at the guy, I say, "Hoo, this guy, hardly can speak Japanese -English - and then he's drafted." But now I know why. Because if you can work defense plant, you can get deferment. So I would say two-thirds were Japanese.
When I went into the service, I was only hundred and ten pounds. You know, I used to fight flyweight. Two months later, I became hundred thirty-five pounds. Because they only feed you potato and all that different kind of things, yeah. I gained one time. So when I came home, my father think, "Chee, how the hell did you gain so much weight?"
I didn't know anything about why, but I know one thing though, the war is already coming. That's why they have to draft, yeah. They're getting prepared. They find out that, oh, they may have to defend America. So they had some thinking, you know. Even when Pearl Harbor was attacked, they used to call it "sneak attack." But actually, it was, I would say, surprise attack, maybe. Because they knew that they were going to fight with Japan. They knew that. But somehow, they didn't want to take the blame, so they call Japan the aggressor.
Even have a picture of when I was stationed at Waimanalo. I have a picture of a guy, no more arm, half up to here, no leg, no more head. I took the picture. This guy is an American pilot in battlefield. You know, in Waimanalo. He flew up, the thing went down and exploded. Two days later, the thing come floating in. So I swam across, I thought was one jacket. I look, ooh, human being like body. I swim back, I told "Ey, you and me got to go pull 'em out." So he and I. And we put him on the root like this. And till today, I never did question who that guy is, because no more head, no more arm, yeah. Just the body in the back like this.
Even then, they used to tell us they don't trust Japanese. On the back of the hill, they said, they telling, somebody told us that the haole soldiers, in case we try to run away, they going shoot us. Because we're defending the beach, yeah. If they invade us, they think that we're going to turn around and go against them. So they had us all zeroed in because no more not one haoles, you know. All Japanese lined up on the beach. We used to sleep on the beach and things like that. But it's amazing how I used to put the newspaper like this, so many mosquitoes. I just clap like this. Real, you know. The thing pile up like this. Mosquito. So much mosquitoes because they used to get sugar plantation. And they don't work on it anymore, so ho, the mosquitoes. Full.
298th Regiment, Hawaii National Guard
[W]hen we went, first draft and second draft, never get war yet, see.
[Y]ou know, we used to have a box like this, put our clothes in, and our valuables. Till today, I don't know what happened to that. We never got back to claim it. Till today, I don't know what happened to that. I had some good valuable things, like my school certificate and all that, I had 'em all in there. And when the war started, they never tell us go back and go pick up your things.
I was E Company. They called it Haole Company because two-thirds of them were haole, yeah. So they used to call it Haole Company, E Company. [My job was] nothing special, just a soldier. You know, carrying a rifle. I don't have that officer ability (laughs).
[F]irst part, hard to take, you know. Because the orders they give you is, they don't tell you, "Oh, please do this, please do that." "Get over there! Do this, do that," you know, with that kind of shouting. So it's not like when you work for civilian outfit. They never use the word "please" or anything, or never say "thank you." They say, "All right, get over there! Go do this." Just like that. But I guess that's the way they're brought up, like that.
Army, you know, like now, I look back. At that time, chee, I think, "How the hell I stayed that long in the army?" Almost five years.
Reactions from Family and Friends
[My father and I] never talked about the war or anything like that. So I don't know what he's thinking. You know, because he get dual mind, yeah. One, he was a soldier in Japan and I'm an American soldier this side. So I don't know what his thinking is, but if I'm guessing, I would say he was on my side. Because I'm his child, eh. That's what I think.
Never talked about war. I don't know why, never talked about it. Yeah. Because when I first drafted, two months later, you can go home, see. You know, you have to - I don't know why they keep us that long but two months later, we come home. I cannot explain to him what kind [of] life we have, things like that. I don't know, maybe he telling me, "Get out of there, from the army." Maybe he's thinking that, I don't know. But he didn't say that to me or anything like that.
[F]unny thing is, all my Japanese friends were all moved out someplace else. We hardly get together already at that time. When I went to San Francisco already, my friends were all split already.
Ray Nosaka's interview reprinted courtesy of the Center for Oral History. Photographs courtesy of Ray Nosaka.